Their accomplishment was a feat not just of physical prowess, but of procedure. Climbing Everest, then as now, was as much a design problem as anything else: Which path could lead humans safely to the summit? Hillary and Norgay, ultimately, summited the wind-whipped, snow-covered mountain not on their own, but with the backing and the strategizing of a 400-person team named for its leader: John Hunt. The Hunt expedition to Everest included not just a small cadre of Western mountaineers, but also 362 porters and 20 Sherpa guides, one of them being Norgay -- and all of them wrestling with some 10,000 pounds of equipment, food, and other luggage.
Hunt was not without guidance in the strategy he developed for his expedition. The year before, 1952, a team of Swiss mountaineers under Edouard Wyss-Dunant had come close to summiting Everest, setting a new climbing altitude record and identifying a new route up the mountain. Hunt used information from their experience to both build on their successes and avoid the pitfalls they had encountered. He charted a new route -- which turned out to be the route -- to the top of the mountain, one that would require the climbing of the steep, icy surface known as the Lhotse Face.
The route would require something else, too: lots of speed on the part of the humans who attempted to traverse it. The slope of the Lhotse is stepped -- meaning that it would offer climbers the opportunity to establish intermediate camps on their way to the summit, which would in turn mean easier access to supplies and shorter climbs between rests. This infrastructure would be the key to the Hunt party's success. The team set up Camp V at the bottom of the face, Camps VI and VII on the face itself, and Camp VIII above the face.